- Gareth Crook
The Human Voice (2020) - 9/10
This has quite a lot to live up to. The 1966 version with Bergman is a masterpiece. Plus this is directed by Pedro Almodóvar AND it’s his first English language film. I’ve been itching to see this for a long time. Delayed like many films due to the pandemic, my expectations have been heightened. Always dangerous going into a film. This was interestingly shot during lockdown, behind the scenes shots showing the crew in masks. I suppose this might be the perfect film project for social distancing. In place of Bergman is Tilda Swinton. She’s not in the same intimate setting as her predecessor. In fact she’s a lot more freedom, starting browsing axes in a hardware store. The premise is the same though. An unnamed woman, alone after being left by her lover. Only a dog for company. Even here though, things are dialled up, the dog can act! Also pining for the now missing man, seriously the dog is great! What’s also great is her apartment. It’s gorgeous! Modern clean lines, bold colours. It screams taste and control. Inexplicably though, it’s not shown to be a real apartment. It’s a set, built in a warehouse-like sound stage. I’ve not yet decided why, other than it looks wonderful as we see aerial shots, Swinton moving from room to roofless room smashing things in anger and frustration. We’re a third way in before the phone rings. This time an iPhone with AirPods. Here we get closer to Bergman’s portrayal. The monologue taking centre stage as Swinton wanders in and out of hers. It’s a much more stylised interpretation and feels a little soulless in places for it, but it still works. The relationship described is much more modern, less traditional, less conservative, but the emotions are just as raw and Swinton delivers with just as effective might. Is it better than the 1966 version? No, but I think it might be as good, or very very close. I might need to watch it a few times to appreciate it fully. Swinton though is undoubtably brilliant and Almodóvar has updated the premise with all the invention you’d expect. It might even have a better ending. My expectations were high and I wasn’t disappointed.